Sunday, May 26, 2013

Summer Reading List

Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer. The hot summer days are perfect for putting your feet up and soaking in some great stories. This is a list of books I think would make some great summer reads. Some are old, some are new. Some I’ve read, some I plan to read. Hope you find a great read. If you find a great book not shared on this list, please post it in the comments. I am always hungry for recommendations.

Middle Grade
Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning, by Danette Haworth. If I ever heard a book mentioned more often in my critique group, this is the one. I’d love to spend some time enjoying fish fries and brain freezes with Violet Raines while she learns about growing up and peer pressure.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger – This book was universally liked by my critique group book club and all three of my kids. You don’t have to be a Star Wars geek to enjoy it.

The Schwa Was Here, by Neal Shusterman – If you think you are overlooked, the teachers don’t even notice the Schwa, until Antsy discovers him and does some experiments to see just how invisible this kid is. I was in a child/parent book club and read this book twice. It was still fun the second time around. Kids love it.

Destiny, Rewritten, by Kathryn Fitzmaurice – A little girl named after Emily Dickinson who doesn’t like poetry is destined to be a poet. The premise of this book is enough to draw me in. I read the author’s debut, “The Year the Swallows Came Early” and was charmed by her storytelling. Can’t wait to read her newest novel.

Young Adult
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer – Cinder is a cyborg. This isn’t my style of read, but its popularity makes it interesting enough to check it out. The last time I wanted to see what the fuss was about, I read the Hunger Games. Fun fact: this book was written during National Novel Writing Month.

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater – This is another case of checking out what the buzz is all about. I hear great things about this author.

Private Peaceful, by Michael Morpurgo – This is a period novel about WWI and a boy on the front lines. I chose this because my teen stayed home from a party to read this book. He likes to read, but he usually likes to socialize more. This one has to be good.

Elsewhere, by Gabrielle Zevin – Elsewhere is where 15 year old Liz Hall ends up after she dies. Here, she will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn 16, not 14 again. Now that she is dead, she is forced to live a live she doesn’t want with a grandmother she just met.

Adult Fiction
The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach - If you haven’t read it yet, this would be a great summer read. What is better in summer than a story about baseball? It has resonance to “A Prayer for Owen Meany” in some scenarios, others are more modern. Oh, and it is set at a fictitious college in Wisconsin. That makes it special. 

Room, by Emma Donoghue - This is an old one, but I decided to add it in case someone hasn’t read it yet. It is written from the point of view of a child born to a woman being held captive in an 11x11 room. I read this book ages ago, but it lingers in my mind constantly, especially with high profile media cases about women in captivity.

Bared to You, by Sylvia Day – If you loved Fifty Shades of Grey last summer, this one is said to be a great beginning to a series like that. Hmmm, I seem to have something HOT on my mind this summer.

Nanny Returns, by Emma McLaughlin – Remember the buzz of The Nanny Diaries? She is back!

The Paris Wife, Paula McLain – Get away to Paris in the roaring 20s in this tale of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Writers & How They Never Give Up

I don’t know many other professions as swollen with dashed hopes and rejection as that of a writer. Even those who seem to make it may only be a flash in the pan. The rest of us struggle to get published, then have sales, then sell another book, and on and on.

Yet writers, they don’t give up. Success stories are often after years of despair. Overnight success brought on by decades of hard work. Stephen King recounts the story of his wife fishing the “Carrie” manuscript out of his trash in his bible for writers, “On Writing.” In the face of failure, writers press on.

To be fair, many press on for more failure and despair. The advent of electronic publishing houses and more accessible self publishing options make publication more possible than ever, but success is measured on a writer’s own barometer. A writer may feel successful just getting work out there, but others may measure their success in other, unforeseen ways. Published authors can despair over sales, reviews, or wring their hands about selling a second book. The barometer of success constantly changes.

Many never see any success at all. They query with no bites or hold back in fear of failure. Yet, a few brave souls continue to write the stories gelling in their heads, in spite of the impossible odds. They write multiple books that take up space in their heads and on their hard drives, hoping one day those stories will be embraced by loving readers. It is no small thing to write a book. Some estimate it takes 6 to 18 months to polish a novel. In my experience, it often takes years. That is a long time to work on a project that could have no reward.

But writers do it, and they keep doing it, and I am glad they do. All that work, and self examination, and experimentation, and failure, and criticism and thinking all the time about the story and how to make it better add to the lesson on the craft of storytelling. The perseverance to not only complete a manuscript, but make it sing is a mighty effort. We all like to believe that hard work will lead to achieving a goal, a success. It may, it may not, or it may lead the writer to adjust the barometer. 

Never give up.